Scarborough Fair: A Traditional Yorkshire Ballad – Part II

This article was originally published in the Yorkshire Journal (Issue no. 2, 2014) by Gillian Morris. She has kindly contributed her work to be republished here. You can read Part I by clicking here.


Part I of this article outlined the history of Scarborough Fair – the yearly event that took place in Scarborough from the 13th century until the 18th. This part of the article discusses the famous song that the fair inspired.

It is likely that the song Scarborough Fair was first sung by Medieval bards – professional poets and singers whose job was to compose and sing verses in honour of the heroic achievements of royalty and brave men. This role was later taken on by wandering minstrels, who created popular ballads about chivalry and courtly love. Such performers were famous for memorising long poems based on popular myths and legends – just as the Medieval bards had done before them – and these epic poems were called ‘chansons de geste’.


Above: An illustration showing medieval musicians (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 2, 2014)

As the minstrels sang they typically accompanied themselves on an instrument, such as fiddle, and travelled through villages and towns singing songs such as Scarborough Fair.


Above: An illustration showing medieval musicians (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 2, 2014)

Locals would then imitate these ballads, and this is how songs such as Scarborough Fair were spread.

Lyrics and melodies were adapted and modified by those who sung them, which explains why there are now many different versions of Scarborough Fair today.

Prior to the 19th century, Scarborough Fair suffered from waning popularity, and became a relatively unknown folk song until many such songs were collected, written down and published in the 1800s. Frank Kitson published Collection Of Traditional Tunes in 1891, and included Scarborough Fair, reporting that the song was ‘sung in Whitby streets twenty or thirty years ago’. Since then many singers and musicians have produced their own versions of  the song, the most familiar version being that by Simon & Garfunkel – created in 1966.

The lyrics refer to a man, attempting to attain his true love. The singer asks a friend who is attending Scarborough Fair to seek out a former love , and to let her know he still has feelings for her. However, for her to be his true love again she must carry out a number of impossible tasks.

To give one example, she must make him a cambric shirt with no seams or needlework and then wash it in a dry well. Cambric is a lightweight fabric that was used specifically for making lace and needlework. The fabric is tightly woven and when completed, it has a slight glossy finish.

Cambric was not actually available until 1520-30, when it was discovered by the French, so the word Cambric, or this particular verse was probably not in the original ballad but added to the song sometime after the mid 16th century.

In each verse, the second line mentions four herbs – parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. In the Middle Ages flowers and herbs were highly significant, and medieval people believed that they contained mystical properties that could influence emotions and feelings.


Above: Illustrations of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 2, 2014)

Parsley is the first herb mentioned in the song, and has long been associated with aiding digestion – indeed, eating a few leaves with a mean was thought to promote well-being, and this tradition survives to this day. The song, however, alludes to another meaning associated with the herb. Parsley was thought to remove feelings of bitterness and bad emotions. The singer of the song therefore expresses a desire to cleanse the bitterness between himself and his lost love.

Sage – the second herb – was a symbol of strength and wisdom according to Celtic tradition and was even associated with immortality. Today, it is more typically used for stuffing the Christmas turkey. Sage has drying properties and was used, in the past, to treat chest congestion. Furthermore, its antiseptic compounds were used to bind wounds and treat snakebite. In the context of the song, it seems that the singer wants to offer strength and wisdom to his lover, by evoking the qualities of this herb.

Rosemary is associated with love and fidelity. As its strong scent lingers, this herb was given as a token of remembrance between lovers. The singer evokes rosemary to helps his lover to remember what love and affection they had.

Thyme has been used for thousands of years to bind wounds and as an antiseptic. It was also a sign of love and courage. Our singer wants his lover to have courage to do what it will take in order to complete the tasks so that they will once again be lovers.

It has been suggested that the name of the ballad, Scarborough Fair, along with the chorus ‘parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme’ dates to a 19th century version of the song. The chorus may have been borrowed from other ballads which have similar themes. There are a number of older versions that refer to locations other than Scarborough and many versions do not mention a place name at all, instead being given general titles such as ‘The Lovers’ Tasks’ and ‘My Father Gave Me an Acre of Land’.


Above: An illustration of Scarborough Castle and the town in the 1300s (via the Yorkshire Journal, Issue No. 2, 2014)

It has also been suggested that the lyrics of Scarborough Fair appear to have something in common with an obscure Scottish ballad, ‘The Elfin Knight’, which has been traced as far back as 1670 and may well be older. In this ballad, an elf threatens to abduct a young woman to be his lover unless she can perform an impossible task.

Whilst it is difficult to say exactly when Scarborough Fair was composed, it is likely that the song has been adapted and modified with more lyrics added as time went by. Likewise other ballads may have been inspired by Scarborough Fair, so tracing the respective histories of these long-running songs is complicated.

There has been much debate over the meaning of the song, but its title pays tribute to the days in which Scarborough hosted one of the most famous international fairs in England.The following is a typical modern version the ballad that most people will recognise.

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?

Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;

Remember me to one who lives there,

She was once a true love of mine.

Tell her to make me a cambric shirt,

Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;

Without a seam or needlework,

She will be a true love of mine.

Tell her to wash it in yonder dry well,

Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;

Where never spring water or rain ever fell,

She will be a true love of mine.

Tell her to dry it on yonder grey thorn,

Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;

Which never bore blossom since Adam was born,

She will be a true love of mine.


For a full list of acknowledgements, and to see the article in its original format, please visit the Yorkshire Journal (Issue no. 2, 2014). All copyright retained by the author.

Many thanks to Gillian for sharing this article with Stories From Scarborough!

The World Of Holograms: A Proper Introduction

The World Of Holograms arrived in Scarborough in 1985 – the same year in which Kinderland opened. Only one year earlier Scarborough Zoo had been rebranded as Marvel’s, and the North Bay Bathing Pool had been transformed into Waterscene. This was an exciting time to holiday in the seaside town, as new and existing attractions competed for visitors.

*All quotes and images in this post were kindly donated by Carl Racey*

[The World of Holograms] was conceived and run by Carl & Julia Racey from Hull ( Laser Light Image, Hull). Carl & Julia ran this exhibision from 1985 to 1991 when it was sold (in part) to Jim Corrigan, who ran it with his staff for about four more years. It was then sold on to a company in Keswick who exhibited at Lake Windermere.

Located on Foreshore Road, in the same building as Corrigan’s Amusements (now Coney Island Amusements), the World of Holograms boasted an impressive collection of intriguing optical illusions, and, as will soon be revealed, some very unusual live performances.

Above: Original poster for the attraction

Below: The opening year, in 1985

In Carl’s words:

The corner of Corrigan’s Arcade and the entrance to the Hologram Show. This was the first year 1985. The following year the entrance was made bigger, as the exhibition proved very popular, attracting around 50,000 visitors each year.

It is impossible to talk about the World of Holograms, however, without mentioning two of the attraction’s most vibrant and engaging live performers.

Above: Nick and Robert

Nick Hardy and Robert Horwell played various roles, set to quite loud music which could be right heard across the beach. Soon attracted the crowds.

Below: Some of the crowds gathering on Foreshore Road to see Nick and Rob perform

Indeed, these wacky performances were incredibly popular:

This turned out to be a traffic stopping event performed every hour in the summer season, until the police asked it to be stopped due to traffic problems below. Two separate rubber necking incidents with cars crashing brought this about but did last for most of July and August 1985.

Below: Mad professor and his robot (aka Nick and Rob) performing

Above: The two performers at the Amazing World Of Holograms (July 1985)

Teaming up live action with light displays was a clever idea, and no doubt both Mad Professor and Robot did much to bring visitors into the attraction, which spent a number of years entertaining crowds in Scarborough.

A huge thank you to Carl, who kindly shared all the images and information (see them in their original context on the Stories From Scarborough Facebook Page) – he and Julia Racey launched and ran attraction, so we have them to thank for this part of Scarborough’s attraction history!

You can see a video of the World of Holograms here, and you can click on the links below to find out more about the history of the building it was located in:

Before The World Of Holograms

From Turkey To India – Via Scarborough

Do you remember the World Of Holograms? If so please do comment here or on the Facebook Page – pictures and memories are very welcome!

Marvel’s: A New Playground?

This is the tenth in a series of posts about artistic responses to former Scarborough attractions.

To view the others, please click here.

As I mentioned in this post, the current (derelict) Marvel’s site is an eerie place. The broken glass, empty beer cans, graffiti and scorch marks suggest a radical departure from the amusement park of old. And, indeed, its predecessor Scarborough Zoo.

Above: Marvel’s used to be here – only remnants are left (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

I wondered if it would be possible to reclaim this place as a cheerful, colourful scene – a space for fun, games and creativity. In a bid to find out, I made an early morning visit, donned my childhood costume and tested out some ideas.

Above: Returning to Marvel’s, over a decade after it closed (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Derelict sites can be thrilling places for children. Often designated as dangerous and out of bounds by adults, there is a certain allure to crumbling structures and overgrown fixtures; even more so when you’re not supposed to be there.

Above: Sneaking in to play games with a Kinderland frisbee (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

My character, in part represents that naughty child.

Above: Vandalised chairlift strut – and a childhood protest (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

The question is, does she want Marvel’s back?

Above: A makeshift protest? (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Or is she looking for the Zoo?

Above: The Zoo disappeared over twenty years ago (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Perhaps it’s just trouble that she’s after.

Above: Scrapping with a playmate? Or herself? (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

As an artist I want Stories From Scarborough to be more than just a collection of memories.

Above: Where did the Go-Gator go? (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

The memories are of course vitally important – they are the base, the stories that need recording before people forget. But they are also starting points for new ideas, for new ways of thinking about the lost attractions.

Above: Memories are not fixed, or solid – they are blurry, fluid and changeable (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Below: As time passes, these moments become shadowy, like ghosts (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

I like to think that this project will eventually become a melting pot of ideas; ranging from straightforward recollections to strange stories. Fact and fiction, all mixed up. After all, this is what memory is – a combination of things that may have actually happened, coloured with generalisations, editing and pure invention.

Above: A haunted landscape? (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Ultimately these ghosts of the past are rooted in imagination – childhood memories in particular often end up bestowed with a mythical status; a nostalgia for the past that the present and future can never hope to match. This project has already changed my own memories of Scarborough beyond recognition – instead of strengthening nostalgia’s hold, it has opened up a complex chasm of questions. Now I’m asking, what exactly is it that I really remember? Why do others remember what they do? And how might these stories be written and rewritten into Scarborough’s landscapes?

Scarborough at The Museum of Water?

This is the ninth in a series of posts about artistic responses to Scarborough and its former attractions.

For the others, click here.

Just over a week ago I visited The Museum of Water at Somerset House in London – a temporary exhibition that features a long-term collection of water samples gathered by artist Amy Sharrocks and her team. You can find more about the museum by visiting its website, and I’ve also written a review of it here.

Above: Part of the Museum collection (source)

The basic premise of the museum surrounds re-discovering the importance and significance of water, achieved by encouraging members of the public to donate their own samples.

Above: Some of the submissions (source)

Water is a central theme in Stories From Scarborough; not just in terms of the town’s proximity to the sea, but also the role of water in its former attractions.

The murky Mere water the Hispaniola sailed through.

The blue waters of Atlantis.

The splash encountered on the water chute.

Or the Manor Gardens water – an ideal breeding ground for great crested newts.

Landscapes and their materials are imbued with memories, and water is a poignant example of this.

Above: The Manor Gardens Boating Lake – full of memories? (source)

I thought it would be great to see Scarborough represented in the Museum of Water – during my visit I made a pledge to donate some, and last week, after visiting the town for an interview, I perched on rocks on the south side – just past the Spa and near to the former open air swimming pool site – and let the sea gently wash over my hands as I filled a tiny bottle.

Above: The approximate location of the sample – minus the high tide I encountered (source)

The tide was coming in, and the waves started to pound against the rocks, splashing my boots and showering me with spray. My bottle – once containing mouthwash – refused to discard the smell of its former contents. No matter how many times I thrust it into the salty water, it still emerged with a minty aroma at the neck.

Above: Scarborough water – in a mouthwash bottle (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Eventually I conceded that whilst the smell might contain a hint of mouthwash, the water I’d collected still represented Scarborough. I was inspired to collect some sand and seaweed too, although had to discard the latter eventually due to the pungent smell.

Above: The reverse of my water sample – with an explanation for the minty smell! (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Both sand and water later became a part of this performance in Salford, enabling me to effectively bring Scarborough to a city 100 miles away – both symbolically and in terms of materials. Now it is time to donate the remaining water to the museum, and along with it, a small piece of Stories From Scarborough..

Above: Using the Scarborough water in a performance (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Romantic as all this sounds, you might still be wondering how, exactly, any of this truly relates to the former attractions investigated here. Well. Firstly, seawater, like sand, is part of the language of the seaside – it references Scarborough more generally as a setting for the attractions.

Above: The Hispaniola now sails on the sea – another relevant link (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Secondly, this water offers a starting point – for new ways in which to consider the attractions. Whilst I cannot collect water from Atlantis, Water Splash World, Waterscene or the North Bay Bathing Pool, I can collect it from elsewhere – the Manor Gardens Lake; the Mere, puddles on various former sites. All could potentially hold memories of the attractions.

Above: The Mere today – but does it ‘remember’ the Hispaniola? (source)

The landscape arguably retains memories of its histories – these might be physical (erosion, dereliction, remains of structures etc) or, according to some, even spiritual or emotional – sensations or feelings. Either way, the materials of a landscape are evocative, and water is no different. If anything it is the most pervasive vessel of all – every drop has ostensibly been drunk, swam in, washed in by a great number of people. It has travelled to the clouds and back; journeyed far out to sea, across the world and throughout history.

Above: Scarborough’s water has endured many journeys (source)

The water I am donating to the Museum could have come from, or travelled, anywhere. I just happened to pick it up at Scarborough. Some might argue it is not mine to donate. Others might question its relevance or significance. Ultimately the latter is down to us. We choose how and why particular water is important; what it means. It is at the same time both universal and personal, and as such, by acknowledging the stories we tell about it, the Museum of Water celebrates the enormity and diversity of its value.

Please note that there are plenty of historical posts about former attractions coming soon, and I’ve had some brilliant memories emailed to me. However, as I am moving to Scarborough this week there may be delays in posting, especially if I have problems getting internet access when I arrive. Thank you for your patience!


Back To Childhood

This is the second in a series of detailed posts about my artistic responses to former Scarborough attractions.

To see the first – The Making of a Chairlift – please click here.

Although I still regularly visit Scarborough as an adult, and am moving to the town this summer, most of my most enduring memories are of childhood visits during the late 1980s and early to mid 1990s.


Above: In Kinderland (from the author’s personal collection)

As an artist who wears costumes and performs characters – it made sense that I should create a child character for Stories From Scarborough. Indeed, the imagined rider of my chairlift costume is a child:

Above: As shown in the previous post (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

The pigtails, dungarees and frilly collar are references to a childhood outfit I often wore. However, I wanted to design something slightly different for the adult ‘me’ – still dungarees, but white or gingham ones with patches; worn with a t-shirt, pumps and frilly white socks.

The first step was to design some memory-inspired patches for my costume – I combined existing images, my own drawings and photos to create a series of digital patterns inspired by Marvel’s Amusement Park and its predecessor Scarborough Zoo.

Above: One of a series of Marvel’s memory patches (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Below: Combined patterns (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

If you look closely you can see chairlifts, promotional material from Marvel’s and references to Scarborough Zoo. From a distance I imagined a series of these patterns resembling red gingham. I wondered whether they should cover the dungarees or not.

Above: Dungaree pattern superimposed over a template (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

But more importantly, was I to make the dungarees from scratch, or to buy a plain white pair to experiment with? In the end I found an affordable pair of white builders’ dungarees on eBay, with a handy pouch in the front. I also paired them with a cheap red t-shirt and summery pumps, similar to those I sometimes wore as a child during the summer.

Above: Costume paired with a handmade sign (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Even just wearing these new clothes made me feel like a child again – my whole body language changed. The handmade sign is a nod to the Kinderland March – I decided that Marvel’s deserved a protest against closure, even over a decade after the occasion!

So what about the memory patches?

Well, after making the digital design I printed an acetate positive to create a screenprint of the pattern onto a cut up white cotton bedsheet. Not all of the prints turned out quite right though:

Above: An artistically imperfect print! Oops! (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Nonetheless, I got enough decent patches to sew some onto the dungarees – I opted against completely covering the white, instead settling for a series of strategically placed samples.

Above: Costume plus patches but minus pigtails (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

I was very happy with how it turned out and even customised the costume with a handmade badge or two:

Above: Dungarees with badges and memory patch (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

And some more:

Above: More badges (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

This character will be hoping to have some adventures in Scarborough this summer and beyond, and she might be doing a sneaky preview performance in Manchester before I leave. Watch this space!

The Making of a Chairlift

When I started planning Stories From Scarborough, back in late 2013, one of the first ideas I had was to make a wearable chairlift.

Above: Design for a wearable chairlift (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

The bright red chairlifts, that took passengers from Scarborough North Bay to Marvel’s Amusement Park in the 1980s and 1990s (and to Scarborough Zoo in the 1970s), remain vividly in my memory. As a child, it was incredibly thrilling to travel at what then seemed like a great height towards an exciting-looking fairground.

Above: Family photograph of the chairlift (from the author’s personal collection)

However, constructing such a structure is by no means a straightforward task, especially for someone with little expertise in making big 3D objects.

My first task was to understand the shape.

Above: Drawing the chairlift (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

I made lots of drawings – at the time I didn’t have any red pens or pencils to hand, so used some red electrical tape that I happened to come across.

Fortunately the colour was just right!

After making the drawings I constructed some crude models using cardboard, tape, wire – any materials I could find really. Following considerable frustration and research I decided to make the frame using withies – often used in the construction of lanterns. I wanted something that was lightweight and malleable, but also reasonably strong.

The original chairlifts would likely have been made from fibreglass or something similarly robust. Alas, my budget does not allow for such extravagant spending! Nor will my chairlift be required to carry passengers at great heights.

Above: Withies, masking tape, wire and string (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Rather than attempt the complex shape of the top from the outset, I settled for a simple cone-like form, over which I could then add further layers. Following this I covered the form in newspaper to get a better sense of the shape.

Above: The top – with newspaper (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

With a better sense of the shape I added a thin layer of modroc, more newspaper and then, in a surprising twist, red electrical tape!

Above: Adding the tape (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

After the serendipitous success of the tape on my drawings, I saw no reason why I shouldn’t use the tape to create an interesting cover to my chairlift. 100% accuracy was never my aim in making this object – I simply wanted to create a likeness, with my own weird creative stamp on it.

Above: The two halves (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Many rolls of red tape later, I had two halves of a chairlift. Using garden canes attached to the bottom, I created a frame onto which the top could sit. Trouble was, the top didn’t want to sit in place – I spent a great deal of time messing with parcel tape (my newest solution to securing fragile joins) and pulling pieces apart before deciding to keep the top and bottom separate for transport purposes – I’m in Manchester right now and need to get this thing to Scarborough somehow this summer. And I don’t own a car.

Above: Trying out the costume (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Luckily I could hold the whole thing up as a costume without too much difficulty. All that remained was a great deal of tidying up, taping and securing bits and pieces. In the meantime I was also thinking about other uses for the chairlift (besides the costume idea).

Above: A new idea? (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

I imagined suspending the chairlift somewhere as an exhibition piece/sculpture – I could attach things to it, like memories of Marvel’s or references to former use of the site (it was once a zoo, and before that tennis courts…I’ve also heard rumours of a roller skating area).

Above: The chairlift as a sculpture/exhibition piece (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

In the end I attached balloons to the top. Just because.

I’ll be exhibiting a version of this in Manchester this June, as a sort of public introduction to the project.

When I arrive in Scarborough I hope to do this with it:

To see more of my art work, including previous projects, please visit my website and art blog.